It’s one of the world’s most iconic art works, originally painted on a stone wall, over five hundred years ago, at a convent in Milan, Italy. It’s a large mural, approximately fifteen by thirty feet in size. The Last Supper portrays Christ’s inner circle of disciples, responding to the dinner revelation that there was a betrayer in their midst. Imagine being there; having your feet washed by the Master and then reclining at table with Him. Let’s set the scene.
Meal times in the Middle East were akin to our modern day picnic on a blanket. The food was laid on the floor, on a piece of cloth, or perhaps on a slightly raised platform of sorts. There may have been pillows to recline on and you would eat either sitting down or lying on your side. We know from the gospel accounts, that the disciple reclining next to Jesus was the Apostle John.
He is known as the “beloved disciple”, a description by the way, that is not intended to produce envy or exclusivity in our hearts. Wasn’t Jesus close to everyone? Does He not love us all the same? True, but He was mentoring and preparing John to take his place as a literal son, to care for His mother, after His death. There is also the element of receptivity and response. Perhaps John pressed in a bit more to go deep in his relationship with Christ. At any rate, this was John’s place at the table that night.
So what’s your place at the table?
“And He raised us up together with Him and made us sit down together [giving us joint seating with Him] in the heavenly sphere [by virtue of our being] in Christ Jesus (the Messiah, the Anointed One). (Eph.2:6, AMPC) We all have the same relational access but I’ve discovered this related principle: The greater the revelation, the greater the responsibility.
Desiring to walk in the “beloved” status for which we are all qualified, will entail the embrace of restraints along the way. Unlikely allies will include: suffering, yielding, and living the crucified life. It sounds trivial to say that it’s totally worth it, but it totally is. The joy will always outweigh the cost.
Following the intimate fellowship meal was the garden; then the cross; then the resurrection. It was John who recognized the risen Christ on the shoreline of Galilee, exclaiming “It is the Lord.” They shared a meal once again, this time on a beach. Decades of ministry adventures ensued.
In his later years, John was banished to a Roman penal colony. The older I get, the more I appreciate the story-line of my life. The ebbs and flows once deemed narrow and constricting, prove to be escorts unto enlargement.
One day, John was blessed with a heavenly encounter and heard a voice speaking to him. When he turned to see, he saw his beloved Jesus, but it wasn’t the upper room Jesus or the resurrected earthly form of Christ. It was the ascended, glorified Christ, overwhelmingly glorious to where John “fell at His feet as though dead.” Jesus placed His right hand on John and spoke to him. The narrative brings us directly into the mission at hand, but personally, I believe that Jesus must have taken at least a moment to embrace His faithful follower.
Leaning on Jesus’ bosom had to be a comforting memory for John on Patmos, even as Jesus was sustained on earth, by being in the bosom of the Father. “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” (John 1:18) This is the place from which I want to live and speak.
People see God the clearest in me when I take my place at the table; reclining in the bosom of the Father.